Running Gear: Save or Splurge?

Compared to other sports, running has a pretty low investment cost. Really, all you have to worry about is getting yourself dressed. There's not a lot of extraneous equipment to buy. Still, there's a pretty wide price range when it comes to gear, and it can get pretty expensive pretty quickly if you let it. Lucky for you, I've bought a lot of running crap over the you don't have to!

From head to toe, these are my suggestions to spend your running pennies wisely:

Headbands: Save. Okay, maybe not a necessity for everyone, but they are for me. I have a lot of little wispies (technical term) around my hair line and hate having even one stray piece of hair sweat-glued to my face, so I always wear a headband. I used to really like the Sweaty Bands brand, until I realized I could make them for like 1/4 of the cost. If you have a sewing machine and some basic (and I do mean very, very basic) sewing skills, it's really not that hard, pinky promise.

Sports Bra: Save. Fortunately (or maybe unfortunately?), I wasn't blessed in the chest so I don't need any fancy contraption to support me up top. I find my sports bras at Target or TJ Maxx for 10-20 bucks. The cheaper, the more money I have to put toward race fees.

Running Top: Save. I get my tops from anywhere and everywhere. I've bought more expensive, running-specific tanks that are supposed to help ventilate and all that jazz, but I haven't noticed a huge difference in performance (especially since, in the summer, I end up taking them off about halfway through my run anyway). The cheaper tops work just fine for me, thanks. I got this tank on clearance from Target for $6!

Shorts: Splurge. You knew your luck was going to run out eventually, right? Sorry to tell you, but things get expensive from here on out. I used to run in whatever shorts I found at Target or on the sale rack at Dick's, but about a year ago I discovered (and fell in love with) Moving Comfort. I always preferred swishy shorts to booty shorts that ride up (maybe that's just me), but it took me a while to find a pair I love. Now I have 3 of them. Sadly, I just recently learned that Moving Comfort is no more so these have been discontinued, but you may be able to snag a pair if you're a medium or XL! I believe that Moving Comfort was bought by Brooks, which I've never tried, but hopefully I'll be able to find a comparable pair when I need to restock in the future.

Socks: Splurge. If I had evaluated this 6 months ago, I would have told you to spend as little as possible on socks and that a 6-pack of Under Armor socks for $20 would do the job just fine. But now, I've seen the light. A few months ago I went bowling with friends and realized I had forgotten socks, but as luck would have it, I had a small gift card to the running store a few doors down so I popped in to kill two birds with one stone. I picked out a pair of Balega Hidden Comfort (two of them actually - what would I have done with a $9 balance remaining on a running store gift card?) and while they worked well for bowling, they worked even better for running. I've never been especially prone to blisters but I do tend to get them with higher mileage, and I've noticed that they're much less prevalent now that I've changed socks.

Shoes: SPLURGE. Please, PLEASE, if you splurge on nothing else, let it be your shoes. All you really need for running are shoes, but not just any shoes. You need a pair of shoes that are made for running, are appropriate for your running style, and that help you run as efficiently as possible and avoid injury. In order to find them, you really need to get fitted for them at a running store. Seriously, take it from me, who had to take 8 weeks off of running for a stress reaction caused by shoes I bought online because they were cute, and not necessarily because they were the right running shoes for me. Go. get. fitted.  The employees won't bite, or look at you funny for not looking like an Olympian, or brush you off because you just started running. They want to help you, so please let them. They'll watch you run a couple laps across the store to get an idea of how and where your feet land, and let you spend the next hour putting shoes on, running up and down the store, taking them off, and repeating until you feel like you stepped on a cloud. I'm personally partial to Newtons - I alternate between Gravity III and Distance III (both on deep deep discount, like 50% off, because the new model just came out!) - and would be happy to try to convert you too, but the most important thing is that you find the brand and model that's right for you.
A good pair of shoes will run you 80 bucks easy, and can go up to double that. You don't have to buy the most expensive pair on the wall, but you should be prepared to drop some substantial dough (but don't be too scared of making the wrong decision - any running store that values its customers and its reputation wants you to be happy and will gladly exchange shoes that just aren't working for you). Your body will thank you for it!

What running items are worth the price tag for you? Which can you skimp on?


  1. totally agree with your recos. for sure splurge on the shoes - the most important thing about workout gear, IMO.

  2. For those of us who aren't as lucky(?) as you, a good quality sports bra is an important splurge. It was funny you mentioned Moving Comfort, because they had the BEST running bras. It is seriously hard to find a supportive bra if you have a large chest (think DD or larger), and I had great success with my Moving Comfort bras. I bought my first one from Nordstrom Rack, so it's possible to find deals even on good quality bras. Hopefully Brooks continues to sell them without changing their awesome.

  3. first, you are adorable.
    second, i want that tank!
    third, i agree with all the things. i have a billion wispies, and i hate them, but headbands NEVER stay on my head, so i can't win either way! i like nike shorts personally, but they do ride up sometimes (when i gain weight..... lol) so i'll have a look out for the moving comfort ones on ebay.

  4. ps. I was also not blessed in the chest hahaha and I agree with save. How much would it suck to have bigger boobs and have to waste money on a sports bra?! My friend has to wear 2 when she runs and they are expensive. No thanks!

  5. I totally have that same tank top! Love it. I found some Nike shorts that I fell in love with. They're absolutely perfect for me, annnd that style has been discontinued. Ugh. (I frequently peruse ebay hoping someone is trying to get rid of an unused pair. It's happened once!)

    I definitely don't splurge on socks. I found some relatively inexpensive ones, and I haven't needed to invest in anything better. I also don't really splurge on sports bras or tank tops, but I do have very specific ones I love (Nike bra, Under Armour tank). Once I find something that works, I buy 3945874 of the exact same thing. :P But yes yes YES to splurge on shoes.

  6. I totally agree with splurging on shorts (or capris, pants...bottoms, basically), and shoes. I am a diehard Lululemon fan, so that is where I get most of my bottoms. I just bought a running skirt, and I kind of dig it.

    Moving Comfort is great for sports bras, if you need the support. I, like you, do not. I typically get my sports bras from Walmart...I think they're Danskin? Works just fine for me. I actually do have a couple Moving Comfort sports bras, and I actually don't like them because I feel like they're *too* restricting. Like, I can't breathe when I wear them.

  7. You already know I agree 1000% on the shoes. I can't honestly say I've ever really splurged on shorts (or socks), but my sports bras are a little different. I'm not super chest blessed either, but I need a bra with adjustable straps or my shoulders will hurt on a long run and I can't do the uniboob type of bras. My favorite two are about $50 from Victoria's Secret and the only ones I will wear on race day. I can suffer through shorter runs with other bras, but these are just the most comfortable AND the ones that make me feel most comfortable with running shirtless through town.
    I've done a lot of assessment this summer about my stance on shorts and I've decided: I love bike shorts that DO NOT MOVE and cover at least a few inches of leg below the butt (and I have two great pairs from Target) OR I have to wear shorts that are loose enough that I can barely feel anything but the waistband. I definitely should get a few more that I really love wearing, but a) I just bought new shoes to alternate with (first time doing this and I feel super official now) and b) I don't know what to buy!
    I will also say this: buying a Garmin changed a lot for me. This sounds really silly, but when I used to track my runs with Runkeeper on my phone, I would get really frustrated by little things like even a drizzle of rain or having to stop for traffic/a stoplight. The auto-pause worked properly like maybe 40% of the time, and since I kept it in my belt it was such a hassle to get in and out "in time" and I'm super anal and want my run times to be accurate down to the second. I would actually justify not running in the rain because I didn't want to get my phone wet taking it out to start/pause/stop a run. I know, ridiculous. Now though I just put my music/podcast on and put it in my belt before I leave my apartment and use the Garmin, and it sounds like a little thing, but I think it totally changed how I feel about running some days. Of course, not everyone needs or should have a Garmin, but for me, it was a game-changing splurge!
    (PS, I started Ctrl+C my comments after our last conversation and good thing because blogger just totally ate the first version of this comment.)

  8. I'm SOOO with you - if I can find shorts I like, I'll buy them ALL!
    Sports bras? I buy on clearance at Target or Old Navy... I'm really cheap there

  9. Ohhh I really like those shorts that you showed. Stinks that they are discontinued!! Do they have built in underwear? I hate the built in stuff so much. I am trying to find pairs without them built in that still look cute and fit me right. I am going to go get fitted for shoes for my birthday I think to treat myself. I have been meaning to go over for awhile. I think it will help my hip pain. I totally buy my workout tops at TJ Maxx or JCPenney. Nordstrom Rack is a great place to find higher end brands for less too!

  10. I absolutely think splurge on a BondiBand. They are the only thing I have ever found that stay on my head, and I love them so much! But they're like $7 a pop. Worth it to me. The socks too... my favorites are the Nike Dri-fit with a double layer in the toe. I have never gotten one blister from running in these! Tanks/shirts are another story. I run in anything. I get really good deals at the Nike outlet and pick up shirts for less than $5.

  11. I am jealous of anyone who doesn't have to worry about a sports bra. Besides my shoes, a bra is my 2nd splurge. I only wear Moving Comfort and have shelled out $50 for 1 bra in the past. Now that I have a size and style that fits well, I buy them on sale when I come across deals online. I hope Brooks doesn't change them!!

  12. I love this post! I was so glad you included socks because I don't know how many times I tried to tell my husband why bother with the expensive shoes if you're just going to get cheap socks?? I have the biggest issue with sports bras, I feel like it's impossible to find ones that have support but don't make me feel like I can't breathe-- which just gives me anxiety, because half of the time I feel like I can't breathe anyway, haha. Though I was getting better before I gave up!

  13. Oh man. YES YES YES!

    I don't wear headbands though... they slip off my head.

    I, unfortunately, have to splurge on a sports bra, too. Bummer.

    Socks, shoes, and shorts (the three "S"s?) are a MUST SPLURGE. You do NOT want to skimp on those.

  14. Oh good post! I also recently learned about Moving Comfort no longer making shorts - is it only bras now? I suppose with Brooks by them, didn't want their own brand to cannibalize themselves.

  15. Love this post!!! Umm I am with you on the shorts. Cheap shorts do not fly!!! I always thought shorts are shorts - nope!

  16. Hi! I am Pamela over at A Little Glitter. Kristen gave you a shout out during the Share the Love Link-Up I am hosting. It's nice to e-meet you! I am a newbie workouter/runner and I appreciate these tips. I am also REALLY impressed with the headband you made! You should sell those on Etsy! I would totally buy one!

  17. Hi! I am Pamela over at A Little Glitter. Kristen gave you a shout out during the Share the Love Link-Up I am hosting. It's nice to e-meet you! I am a newbie workouter/runner and I appreciate these tips. I am also REALLY impressed with the headband you made! You should sell those on Etsy! I would totally buy one!

  18. I wish I was blessed with less boobage. After Champion stopped making my favorite sports bras, I transitioned to VS ultimate something, everything there is ultimate something and ultimately priced.. /wrist. My splurges are shoes, bras, then other things. I have struggled with headbands for a long time, so I just go the super classy route and tie a bandanna around my head so it also soaks up the sweat and it doesn't run in my eyes. I save on running gear because I tend to end up with a plethora of shirts from other runs. Shorts I'm going to have to start researching though.


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